THE GATES OF HEAVEN
The Sumerians bequeathed to humanity a long list of "firsts" without
which ensuing and modern civilizations would have been impossible.
To those that were already mentioned, another "first" that has
endured almost without a break has been Kingship. As all others,
this "first" too was granted to the Sumerians by the Anunnaki. In
the words of the
Sumerian King Lists, "after the Flood had swept
over the Earth, when Kingship was lowered from Heaven, Kingship was
It was, perhaps, because of this - because "Kingship was
lowered from Heaven" - that kings have deemed it a right to be taken
aloft, to ascend unto the Gates of Heaven. Therein lie records of
attained, attempted, or simulated Divine Encounters filled with
soaring aspirations and dramatic failures. In most, dreams play a
The Mesopotamian texts relate that, faced with the reality of a
devastated planet, Enlil accepted the fact of Mankind’s survival and
bestowed his blessings upon the remnants. Realizing that henceforth
the Anunnaki themselves could not continue their stay and
functioning on Earth without human help, Enlil joined Enki in
providing Mankind with the advancements that we call the progress
from Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to Mesolithic and Neolithic (Middle
and New Stone Ages) to the sudden Sumerian civilization - in each
instance at 3,600-year intervals - that marked the introduction of
animal and plant domestications and the switchover from stone to
clay and pottery to copper tools and utensils, then to a
As the Mesopotamian texts make clear, the institution of
Kingship as an aspect of such high-level civilizations with their
hierarchies was created by
the Anunnaki to form a partition between
themselves and the surging masses of humanity. Before the Deluge Enlil complained that "the noise of Mankind has become too intense"
for him, that "by their uproar I am deprived of sleep."
Now the Gods
retreated to sacred precincts, the step-pyramids (ziggurats) at
whose center were called the "E" (literally: House, abode) of the
God; and a chosen individual who was permitted to approach close
enough to hear the deity’s words, then conveyed the divine message
to the people. Lest Enlil become unhappy again with humanity, the
choice of a king was his prerogative; and in Sumerian what we call
"Kingship" was called "Enlilship."
We read in the texts that the
decision to create Kingship came only after great turmoil and
warfare among the Anunnaki themselves - conflicts that we have termed
Pyramid Wars in our book
The Wars of Gods and Men. These bitter
conflicts were halted by a peace treaty that divided the ancient
settled world into four regions. Three were allocated to Mankind,
recognizable as the locations of the three great ancient
The Fourth Region, a neutral
zone, was TILMUN ("Land of the Missiles") - the Sinai peninsula - where
the post-Diluvial Spaceport was located. And so it was that,
The great Anunnaki who decree the fates
sat exchanging their counsels regarding the Earth.
The four regions they created,
establishing their boundaries.
At that time, as the lands were being divided among the Enlilites
and the Enki’ites,
A king was not yet established
over all the teeming peoples;
At that time the headband and crown
The scepter inlaid with lapis lazuli
was not yet brandished;
The throne-dais had not yet been built.
Scepter and crown, royal
headband and staff
still lay in heaven before Anu.
When finally, after the decisions regarding the four regions and the
granting of civilizations and Kingship to Mankind were reached, "the
scepter of Kingship was brought down from Heaven," Enlil assigned to
the Goddess Ishtar (his granddaughter) the task of finding a
suitable candidate for the first throne in the City of Men - Kish, in
The Bible recalls Enlil’s change of heart and blessing of the
remnants by stating that "Elohim blessed Noah and his sons and said
unto them: Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth." The
Bible then, in what is called the Table of Nations (Genesis chapter
10), proceeds to list the tribal nations that have descended of the
three sons of Noah - Shem, Ham, and Japhet - the three major groupings
that we still recognize as the Semitic peoples of the Near East, the
Hamitic peoples of Africa, and the Indo-Europeans of Anatolia and
the Caucasus who had spread to Europe and India. Plunked into the
list of sons and sons of sons and grandsons is an unexpected
statement regarding the origins of Kingship and the name of the
first king - Nimrod:
And Kush begot Nimrod,
he who was the first Mighty Man
upon the Earth.
He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh,
wherefore the saying, "A Mighty Hunter
like Nimrod before Yahweh.
And the beginning of his kingdom:
Babel and Erech and Akkad,
all in the Land of Shine‘ar.
Out of that land there emanated Ashur,
where Nineveh was built,
a city of wide streets;
and Khalah, and Ressen - the great
city which is between Nineveh and Khalah.
This is an accurate, though concise, history of Kingship
and kingdoms in Mesopotamia. It compresses the data in the Sumerian
King Lists wherein Kingship, having begun in Kish (that the Bible
calls Kush), indeed shifted to Uruk (Erech in the Bible) and after
some meandering to Akkad, and in time to Babylon (Babel) and
They all emanated from Sumer, the biblical Shine’ar. The
Sumerian "first" in Kingship is further evidenced by the biblical
use of the term "Mighty Man" to describe the first king, for this is
a literal rendering of the Sumerian word for king, LU.GAL - "Great/
There have been many attempts to identify "Nimrod." Since according
to Sumerian "myths" it was Ninurta, the Foremost Son of Enlil, who
was given the task of instituting "Enlilship" in Kish, Nimrod might
have been the Hebrew name for Ninurta. If it is a man’s name, no one
knows what it was in Sumerian because the clay tablet is damaged
According to the Sumerian King Lists, the Kish dynasty
consisted of twenty-three kings who ruled for "24,510 years 3
months and 3’/2 days," with individual reigns of 1,200, 900, 960,
1,500, 1,560 years and the like. Assuming the mispositioning of "1"
as "60" in transcribing over the millennia, one arrives at the more
plausible 20, 15, and so on individual reigns and a total of just
over four hundred years - a period that is supported by archaeological
discoveries at Kish.
The list of names and lengths of reign is deviated from only once,
in respect to the thirteenth king. Of him the King Lists state:
Etana, a shepherd,
he who ascended to heaven,
who consolidated all countries,
became king and ruled for 1,560 years.
This historical notation is not an idle one; for there does exist a
long epic tale,
the Epic of Etana, that describes his
Encounters in his efforts to reach the Gates of Heaven. Although no
complete text has been found, scholars have been able to piece
together the story line from fragments of Old Babylonian, Middle
Assyrian, and Neo-Assyrian recensions; but there is no doubt that
the original version was
Sumerian, for a sage in the service of the Sumerian king Shulgi
(twenty-first century B.C.) is mentioned in one of the recensions as
the editor of an earlier version.
The reconstruction of the tale from the various fragments has not
been easy because the text seems to weave together two separate
stories. One has to do with Etana, clearly a beloved king known for
a major benevolent achievement (the "consolidation of all
countries"), who was deprived of a son and natural successor because
of his wife’s malady; and the only remedy was the Plant of Birth,
which could be obtained only in the Heavens.
The story thus leads to Etana’s dramatic attempts to reach the Gates of Heaven, borne aloft
on the wings of an eagle (a part of the tale that was depicted on
cylinder seals from the twenty-fourth century B.C. - Fig. 30).
other story line deals with the Eagle, its friendship at first and
then quarrel with a Serpent, resulting in the Eagle’s imprisonment
in a pit from which it is saved by Etana in a mutually beneficial
deal: Etana rescues the Eagle and repairs its wings in exchange for
the Eagle’s acting as a spaceship that takes Etana to distant
Several Sumerian texts convey historical data in the form of an
allegorical disputation (some of which we had already mentioned),
and scholars are uncertain where in the Eagle-Serpent segment
allegory ends and a historical record begins. The fact that in both
segments it is Utu/Shamash, the commander of the Spaceport, who is
the deity that controls the fate of the Eagle and who arranges for Etana to meet the Eagle, suggests a factual space-related event.
Moreover, in what scholars call The
Historical Introduction to the interwoven episodes, the narrative sets the stage for the related events
as a time of conflict and clashes in which the IGI.GI ("Those Who
Observe and See") - the corps of astronauts who remained in Earth
orbit and manned the shuttlecraft (as distinct from the Anunnaki who
had come down to Earth) - "barred the gates" and "patrolled the city"
against opponents whose identity is lost in the damaged tablets.
All of this spells actuality, a record of facts.
The unusual presence of the Igigi in a city on land, the fact that
Utu/Shamash was commander of the Spaceport (by then in the Fourth
Region), and the designation of the pilot-cum-spacecraft of Etana as
an Eagle, suggest that the conflict echoed in the Etana tale had to
do with space flight. Could it be an attempt to create an
alternative space center, one not controlled by Utu/Shamash? Could
the Eagleman who was involved in the failed attempt, or the intended
spacecraft, be banished to languish in a pit - an underground silo?
depiction of a rocketship in an underground silo (showing the
command module above ground) has been found in the tomb of Hui, an
Egyptian governor of the Sinai in Pharaonic times (Fig. 31),
indicating that an "Eagle" in a "pit" was recognized in antiquity
as a rocketship in its silo.
If we accept the biblical data as an abbreviated version, yet one
that is chronologically and otherwise correct, of the Sumerian
sources, we learn that in the aftermath of the Deluge, as Mankind
proliferated and the Tigris-Euphrates plain was drying up
sufficiently for resettlement, people,
"journeyed from the east, and
they found a plain in the land of Shine’ar and they settled there.
And they said to one another: Let us make bricks, and burn them in a
kiln. And thus the brick served them for stone, and bitumen served
them as mortar."
This is quite an accurate if concise description of the beginning
of Sumerian civilization and some of its "firsts" - the brick, the
kiln, and the first City of Men; for what ensued was the building of
a city and of a "Tower whose head can reach unto heaven."
Nowadays we call such a structure a launch rower, and its "head"
that can reach the heavens is called a rocketship...
We have arrived, in the biblical narrative and chronologically, at
the incident of the Tower of Babel - the unauthorized construction of
a space facility. So "Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower
that the Children of Adam were building."
Not liking at all what he was seeing, Yahweh expressed his concerns
to unnamed colleagues.
"Come, let us descend and confound there
their tongue, so that they may not understand one another’s
speech," he said.
And so it was. "And Yahweh scattered them from
there upon all over the Earth, and they ceased building the city."
The Bible identifies the place where the attempt to scale the
heavens had taken place as Babylon, explaining its Hebrew name
Babel as derived from the root "to confuse." In fact the original
Mesopotamian name, Bab-ili, meant "Gateway of the Gods," a place
intended by Marduk, the Firstborn son of Enki, to serve as an
alternative launch site, free of Enlilite control. Coming in the
wake of what we had termed
the Pyramid Wars, the incident was timed
by us to circa 3450 B.C. - several centuries after the beginning of
Kingship in Kish and thus in about the same time frame as that of
the Etana events.
Such correspondences between the Sumerian and biblical chronologies
shed light on the identity of the divine beings who, like Yahweh in
the biblical version, had come down to see what was happening in
Babylon, and to whom Yahweh had expressed his concerns. They were
the Igigi, who came down to Earth, occupied the city, barred its
seven gates against the opposing forces, and patrolled the place
until order was restored under a new chosen king capable of
"consolidating the lands."
That new ruler was Etana.
His name can
best be translated as "Strongman," and must have been a favorite
name for boys in the ancient Near East for it is encountered several
times as a personal name in the Hebrew Bible (as Ethan). Not unlike
executive searches in our times, he too was selected after "Ishtar
was looking for a shepherd and searching high and low for a king."
After Ishtar had come up with Etana as a candidate for the throne,
Enlil looked him over and approved: "A king is hereby affirmed for
the land," he announced; and "in Kish a throne-dais for Etana he
established." With this done, "the Igigi turned away from the city"
and presumably returned to their space stations.
And Etana, having "consolidated the land," turned his mind to the
need for a male heir.
The tragedy of a childless spouse, unable to bear a successor for
her husband, is a theme encountered in the Bible beginning with the
Patriarchal tales. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was unable to bear
children until a Divine Encounter at age ninety; in the meantime,
her handmaiden Hagar bore Abraham a son (Ishmael) and the stage was
set for a succession conflict between the Firstborn and the younger
Legal Heir (Isaac). Isaac in turn had to "entreat Yahweh in behalf
of his wife, because she was barren." She was able to conceive only
after Yahweh had "let himself be entreated."
Throughout the biblical narratives the belief persists that it is
from the Lord that the ability to conceive is granted, and in turn
withheld. When Abimelech the king of Gerar took Sarah away from
Abraham, "Yahweh closed up every womb in the house of Abimelech" and
the affliction was removed only after an appeal by Abraham. Hannah,
the wife of Elkanah, was deprived of children because "the Lord had shut her womb."
She gave birth to Samuel only after she vowed to give the boy, if
she bears a son, "unto the Lord all the days of his life and there
shall come no razor upon his head."
In the case of Etana’s wife the problem was not an inability to
conceive, but rather repeated miscarriages. She was afflicted with
a LA.BU disease which prevented her bringing to full term the
children that she did conceive. In his desperation, Etana
envisioned dire forebodings. In a dream "he saw the city of Kish
sobbing; in the city, the people were mourning; there was a song of
lamentation." Was it for him, because "Etana cannot have an heir,"
or for his wife - an omen of death?
Thereafter, "his wife said to Etana: the God showed me a dream. Like
Etana my husband, I have had a dream." In the dream she saw a man.
He held a plant in his hand; it was a shammu sha aladi, a Plant of
Birth. He kept pouring cold water on it so that it might "become
established in his house." He brought the plant to his city and into
his house. From the plant there blossomed a flower; then the plant
Etana was certain that the dream was a divine omen. "Who would not
reverence such a dream!" he said. "The command of the Gods has gone
forth!" he exclaimed; the remedy to the malady "has come upon us."
Where was this plant, Etana asked his wife. But, she said, in her
dream "I could not see where it was growing." Convinced however
that the dream was an omen that must come true, Etana went in search
of it. He crossed rivers and mountain streams, he rode to and fro.
But he could not find the plant. Frustrated, Etana sought divine
"Every day Etana prayed repeatedly to Shamash." Coupling
appeals with remonstration, "O Shamash, you have enjoyed the best
cuts of my sheep," he said. "The soil has absorbed the blood of my
lambs. I have honored the Gods!" "The interpreters of dreams," he
continued, "have made full use of my incense."
Now it was up to the
deities themselves, those "who have made full use of my slaughtered
lambs," to interpret the dream for him.
If there is such a Plant of Birth, he said in his prayers,
"Let the word go forth from your mouth,
Ho Lord, and give me the
Plant of Birth! Show me the Plant of Birth! Remove my shame and
provide me with a son!"
The texts do not state where Etana had thus appealed to
the commander of the Spaceport. But apparently it was not a
face-to-face encounter, for we read next that "Shamash made his
voice heard and spoke to Etana." And this was what the divine voice
Go along the road, cross the mountain.
Find a pit and look carefully at what
is inside it.
An Eagle is abandoned down there.
He will obtain for you the Plant of Birth.
Following the God’s instructions
Etana found the pit and the Eagle
inside it. Demanding to know why Etana had come hither, the Eagle
was told of Etana’s problem, and told Etana his sad story. Soon a
deal was struck: Etana would help raise the Eagle out of the pit and
help him fly again; in exchange the Eagle would find for Etana the
Plant of Birth. With the aid of a six-runged ladder Etana brought
the Eagle up; with copper he repaired his wings. Fit to fly, the
Eagle began to search for the magical plant in the mountains. "But
the Plant of Birth was not found there."
As despair and disappointment engulfed Etana, he had another dream.
What he told about it to the Eagle is partly illegible because of
damage to the tablet; but the legible portions refer to the emblems
of lordship and authority, coming from "the bright heights of
heaven, lay across my path." "My friend, your dream is favorable!"
The Eagle said to Etana.
Etana then had one more dream in which he
saw reeds from all parts of the land assemble into heaps in his
house; an evil serpent tried to stop them, but the reeds, "like
subject slaves, bowed down before me." Again the Eagle "persuaded
Etana to accept the dream" as a favorable omen.
Nothing however happened until the Eagle, too, had a dream. "My
friend," he said to Etana, "that same God to me too showed a dream":
We were going through the entrance
of the gates of Anu, Enlil and Ea;
we bowed down together, you and I.
We were going through the entrance
of the gates of Sin, Shamash, Adad and Ishtar;
We bowed down together, you and I.
If we take a look at the route map in Fig. 17, it will at once be
realized that the Eagle was describing a reverse journey - from the
center of the Solar System where the Sun (Shamash), the Moon (Sin),
Mercury (Adad), and Venus (Ishtar) are clustered, toward the outer
planets and the outermost one, Anu’s domain of Nibiru!
The dream, the Eagle reported, had a second part:
I saw a house with a window without a seal.
I pushed it open and went inside.
Sitting in there was a young woman amidst a brilliance,
adorned with a crown, fair of countenance.
A throne was set for her;
around it the ground was made firm.
At the base of the throne lions were crouching.
As I went forward, the lions gave obeisance.
Then I woke up with a start.
The dream was thus filled with good omens: the "window" was
unsealed, the young woman on the throne (the king’s wife) was amidst
a brilliance; the lions were obliging. This dream, the Eagle said,
made it clear what had to be done: "Our objective-target has been
made manifest; come, I will bear you to the heaven of Anu!"
What follows in the ancient text is a description of space flight,
as realistic as any reported by modern astronauts.
Soaring skyward with Etana holding on, the Eagle said to Etana after
they had ascended one beru (a Sumerian measure of distance and of
the celestial arc):
See, my friend, how the land appears!
Peer at the sea at the sides of the Mountain House:
The land has indeed become a mere hill,
the wide sea is just a tub!
Higher and higher the Eagle carried Etana heavenward;
smaller the Earth appeared.
After they had ascended another beru,
the Eagle said to Etana:
Cast a glance at how the Earth appears!
The land has turned into a furrow . ..
The wide sea is just like a bread-basket . . .
After they had journeyed another beru, the land was seen no larger
than a gardener’s ditch. And after that, as they continued to
ascend, the Earth was totally out of sight.
experience, Etana said thus:
As I glanced around, the land had disappeared;
and upon the wide sea
mine eyes could not feast.
They were so far out in space
that Earth had disappeared from view!
Seized with fright, Etana called out to the Eagle to turn back. It
was a dangerous descent, for the Eagle "plunged down" to Earth. A
tablet’s fragment identified by scholars as "the Eagle’s prayer to
Ishtar as he and Etana fall from Heaven" (viz. J.V. Kinnier Wilson,
The Legend of Etana: A New Edition) suggests that the Eagle had
called out to Ishtar - whose mastery of the Earth’s skies was well
attested in both texts and drawings, such as in Fig. 32 - to come to
They were falling toward a body of water mat, "though
it would have saved them at the lop, would have killed them in its
depths." With lshtar’s intervention, the Eagle and his passenger
landed in a forest.
In the second region of civilization, that of the Nile River,
Kingship began circa 3100 B.C. - human Kingship, that is, for
Egyptian traditions held that long before that Egypt was ruled by
Gods and demigods.
According to the Egyptian priest Manetho, who had written down the
history of Egypt when Alexander’s Greeks arrived, in times
immemorial "Gods of Heaven" came to Earth from the Celestial Disc
(Fig. 33). After a great flood had inundated Egypt- "a very great
God who had come to Earth in the earliest times" raised the land
from under the waters by ingenious damming, dyking, and land
His name was Ptah, "The Developer," and he was a
great scientist who had earlier had a hand in the creation of Man.
He was often depicted with a staff that was graduated, very much
like surveyors’ rods nowadays (Fig. 34a). In time Ptah handed the
rule over Egypt to his Firstborn son Ra ("The Bright One" - Fig. 34b),
who for all time remained head of the pantheon of Egyptian Gods.
Figures 34a and 34b
The Egyptian term for "Gods" was
NTR - "Guardian, Watcher" and the
belief was that they had come to Egypt from Ta-Ur, the "foreign/Far
Land." In our previous writings we have identified that land as
Sumer (more correctly Shumer, "Land of the Guardians"), Egypt’s Gods
as the Anunnaki, Ptah as Ea/Enki (whose Sumerian nickname,
NUDIMMUD, meant "The Artful Creator") and Ra as his Firstborn son Marduk.
Ra was followed on the divine throne of Egypt by four brother-sister
couples: first his own children Shu ("Dryness") and Tefnut
("Moisture"), and then by their children Geb ("Who Piles Up the
Earth") and Nut ("The Stretched-out Firmament of the Sky"). Geb and
Nut then had four children: Asar ("The All-Seeing") whom the Greeks
called Osiris, who married his sister Ast, whom we know as
Seth ("The Southerner") who married his sister Nebt-hat, alias
To keep the peace, Egypt was divided between Osiris (who
was given Lower Egypt in the north) and Seth (who was assigned Upper
Egypt in the south). But Seth deemed himself entitled to all of
Egypt, and never accepted the division. Using subterfuge, he managed
to seize Osiris, cut up his body into fourteen pieces, and dispersed
the pieces all over Egypt. But Isis managed to retrieve the pieces
(all except for the phallus) and put together the mutilated body,
thereby resurrecting the dead Osiris to life in the Other World.
him the sacred writings said:
He entered the secret gates,
the glory of the Lord of Eternity,
in step with him who shines in the horizon,
on the path of Ra.
And thus was born the belief that the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, if
"put together" (mummified) like Osiris after death, could journey to
join the Gods in their abode, enter the secret Gates of Heaven,
encounter there the great God Ra, and, if allowed to enter, enjoy an
The journey to this ultimate Divine Encounter was a simulated one;
but to simulate one has to emulate a real, actual precedent - a
journey that the Gods themselves, and specifically so the
resurrected Osiris, had actually taken from the shores of the Nile
to Neter-Khert, "The Gods’ Mountainland," where an Ascender would
take them aloft in the Duat, a magical "Abode for rising to the
Much of what we know of those simulated journeys comes from
Pyramid Texts, texts whose origin is lost in the mists of time that
are known from their repeated quoting inside Pharaonic pyramids
(especially those of Unas, Teti, Pepi I, Merenra, and Pepi II who
had reigned between 2350 and 2180 B.C.). Exiting his burial tomb
(which was never inside a pyramid) through a false door, the king
expected to be met by a divine herald who would "take hold of the
king by the arm and take him to heaven." As the Pharaoh thus began
his Journey to the Afterlife, the priests broke out in a chant: "The
king is on his way to Heaven! The king is on his way to Heaven!"
The journey - so realistic and geographically precise that one forgets
it was supposed to be simulated - began, as stated, by passing through
the false door that faced east; the destination of the Pharaoh was
thus eastward, away from Egypt and toward the Sinai peninsula. The
first obstacle was a Lake of Reeds; the term is almost identical to
that of the biblical Sea of Reeds that the Israelites managed to
cross when its waters miraculously parted, and undoubtedly refers in
both instances to the chain of lakes that still run almost the whole
length of the border between Egypt and the Sinai, from north to
In the case of the Pharaoh, it was a Divine Ferryman who, after some
tough questioning regarding the Pharaoh’s qualifications, decided
to let the king cross. The Divine Ferryman brought the magical boat
over from the lake’s far side, but it was the Pharaoh who had to
recite magical formulas to
make the boat sail back. Once the formulas were recited, the
ferryboat began to move by itself and the steering oar directed
itself. In every respect, the boat was self-propelled!
Beyond the lake there stretched a desert, and beyond it the Pharaoh
could see in the distance the Mountains of the East. But no sooner
had the Pharaoh alighted from the boat, than he was stopped by four
Divine Guards, who were conspicuous by their black hair that was
arranged in curls on their foreheads, at their temples, and at the
back of their heads, with braids in the center of their heads. They,
too, questioned the Pharaoh, but finally let him pass.
A text (known only from its quotes) titled The Book of Two Ways
described the alternatives that now faced the Pharaoh, for he could
see two passes that led through the mountain range beyond which the Duat was. Such two passes, nowadays called the
Giddi and Mitla
passes, offered since time immemorial unto the most recent wars the
only viable way into the center of the peninsula, be it for armies
or nomads or pilgrims. Pronouncing the required Utterances, the
Pharaoh is shown the correct pass. Ahead lies an arid and barren
land, and Divine Guards pop up unexpectedly.
"Where goest thou?"
they demand to know of the mortal who appears in the Gods’ region.
The Divine Herald, alternately seen and unseen, speaks up: "The
king goes to Heaven, to possess life and joy," he says. As the
guards hesitate, the king himself pleads with them: "Open the
frontier . . . incline its barrier ... let me pass as the Gods pass
through!" In the end the Divine Guards let the king through, and he
has finally reached the Duat.
The Duat was conceived as an enclosed Circle of the Gods, at the headpoint of which the sky (represented by the Goddess Nut) opened
so that the Imperishable Star (represented by the Celestial Disc)
could be reached (Fig. 35); geographically it was an oval valley,
enclosed by mountains, through which shallow streams flowed. The
streams were so shallow, or sometimes even so dry, that the Barge of
Ra had to be towed or, otherwise, moved by its own power as a sled.
The Duat was divided into twelve divisions, which the king had to
tackle in twelve hours of the day above ground and in twelve hours
of the night below ground, in the Amen-ta,
the "Hidden Place."
It was there that Osiris himself had ascended to
an Eternal Life, and the king offered there a prayer to Osiris - a
prayer that is quoted in the Egyptian Book of the Dead in the
chapter titled "Chapter of Making His Name":
May be given to me my Name
in the Great House of Two.
May in the House of Fire
a Name to me be granted.
In the night of computing the years
and of telling the months,
May I become a Divine Being,
may I sit on the east side of Heaven.
As we have already suggested, the "Name" -
Shem in Hebrew, MU in
Sumerian - that ancient kings prayed for was a rocketship that could
take them heavenward, and by making them immortal become "that by
which they are remembered."
The king can actually see the Ascender for which he prays. But it is
in the House of Fire that can be reached only through the
subterranean passages. The way down leads through spiraling
corridors, hidden chambers, and doors that open and close
mysteriously. In each of the twelve parts companies of
Gods can be seen; their dress differs; some are headless, some look
ferocious, some are with hidden faces; some are menacing, others
welcome the Pharaoh.
The king is constantly put to the test. By the
seventh division, however, the underworld or infernal aspects begin
to diminish and celestial aspects, emblems and Birdmen Gods (with
falcon heads) start to appear. In the ninth hour-zone the king sees
the twelve "Divine Rowers of the Boat of Ra," the "Celestial Boat of
Millions of Years" (Fig. 36).
In the tenth hour-zone the king, passing through a gate, enters a
place astir with activity, whose Gods are charged with providing the
Flame and Fire for the Celestial Boat of Ra. In the eleventh
hour-zone the king encounters more Gods with star emblems; their
task is to provide "power for emerging from the Duat, to make the
Object of Ra advance to the Hidden House in the Upper Heavens." Here
is where the Gods equip the king for the celestial journey, shedding
his earthly clothes and putting on a Falcon-God’s garb.
In the final twelfth hour-zone, the king is led through a tunnel to
a cavern where the Divine Ladder stands. The cavern is inside the
Mountain of the Ascent of Ra. The Divine Ladder is bound together by
copper cables and is, or leads to, the Divine Ascender. It is the
Ladder of the Gods, used previously by Ra and Seth and Osiris; and
the king (as inscribed in the tomb of Pepi) has prayed that the
Ladder "may be given to Pepi, so that Pepi may ascend to heaven on
Some illustrations in the
Book of the Dead show at this point
the king, receiving the blessings of or being bid good-bye by the Goddesses Isis and Nephtys, being led to
a winged Ded (the symbol of
Everlastingness, Fig. 37).
Equipped as a God, the king is now assisted by two Goddesses "who
seize the cables" to enter the "Eye" of the celestial boat, the
command module of the Ascender. He takes his seat between two Gods;
the seat is called "Truth which makes alive." The king attaches
himself to a protruding contraption, and all is ready for takeoff:
"Pepi is arrayed in the apparel of Horus" (the commander of the
"and in the dress of Thoth" (the Divine Recordskeeper);
"the Opener of the Ways has opened the way for him; the Gods of An"
"let him ascend the Stairway, set him before the
Firmament of Heaven; Nut" (the sky Goddess)
"extends her hand to
The king now offers a prayer to the Double Gates - the "Door of Earth"
and the "Door to Heaven" - that they may open. The hour is now
daybreak; and suddenly "the aperture of the celestial window" opens
up, and "the steps of light are revealed!"
Inside the Ascender’s "Eye" "the command of the Gods is heard."
Outside, the "radiance that lifts" is strengthened so that "the king
may be lifted up to heaven." A "might that no one can withstand" can
be fell inside the "Eye," the command chamber. There are sound and
fury, roaring and quaking:
"The Heaven speaks, the Earth quakes, the
Earth trembles... The ground is come apart... The king ascends to
"The Roaring Tempest drives him... The
guardians of Heaven’s parts open the Gate of Heaven for him!"
The inscriptions within the tomb of Pepi explain to those who were
left behind, the king’s subjects, what had happened:
He flies who flies:
This is the king Pepi who flies away
from you, ye mortals.
He is not of Earth; he is of the Heaven.
This king Pepi flies as a cloud to the sky.
Having risen in the Ascender toward the east,
the king is now
orbiting the Earth:
He encompasses the sky like Ra,
He traverses the sky like Thoth . . .
He travels over the regions of Horus.
He travels over the regions of Seth . . .
He has completely encircled the heavens twice.
The repeated circling of the Earth provides the Ascender with
momentum to leave the Earth for the Double Gates of Heaven. Down
below, the priests’ incantations tell the king: "The Double Gates of
Heaven are opened for thee!" and assure him that the Goddess of
Heaven will protect and guide him in this celestial journey: "She
will lay hold of your arm, she will show you the way to the horizon,
to the place where Ra is." The destination is the "Imperishable
Star" whose symbol is the Winged Disc.
The sacred utterances assure the faithful that when the departed
king shall reach his destination, "when the king shall stand there,
on the star which is on the underside of heaven, he shall be judged
as a God."
The incantation utterances envision that when the king shall
approach the Double Gates of Heaven, he will be met by "the four
Gods who stand on the Dam-scepters of Heaven." He will call out to
them to announce the king’s arrival to Ra; and without doubt, Ra
himself will step forward to greet the king and lead him past the
Gates of Heaven and into the Celestial Palace:
Thou findest Ra standing there.
He greets thee, lays hold on thy arm.
He leads thee into the celestial Double Palace.
He places thee upon the throne of Osiris.
After a series of Divine Encounters with major and minor deities,
the Pharaoh now experiences the utmost Divine Encounter, with the
Great God RA himself. He is offered the throne of Osiris, making him
eligible for Eternity. The celestial journey is complete, but not
the mission. For though the king has become eligible for Eternity,
he now must find and attain it - one final detail in the translation
to an everlasting Afterlife: the king now must find and partake of
the "Nourishment of Everlasting," an elixir which keeps
rejuvenating the Gods in their celestial abode.
The priestly incantations now address this last hurdle. They appeal
to the Gods to "take this king with you, that he may eat of that
which you eat, that he may drink of that which you drink, that he
may live on that which you live. Give sustenance to the king from
your eternal sustenance."
Some of the ancient texts describe where the king now goes as the
Field of Life; others refer to it as the Great Lake of the Gods.
What he has to obtain is both a beverage that is the Water of Life
and a food that is the Fruit of the Tree of Life. Illustrations in
Book of the Dead show the king (sometimes accompanied by his
queen, Fig. 38) within the
Great Lake of the Gods, drinking the Waters of Life - waters out of
which the Tree of Life (a date-palm tree) grows.
Texts it is the Great Green Divine Falcon who leads the king to the
Field of Life, to find the Tree of Life that grows there. There the Goddess who is the
Lady of Life meets the king. She holds four jars
with whose contents she "refreshes the heart of the Great God on the
day when he awakens." She offers the divine elixir to the king,
"therewith giving him Life."
Watching the proceedings, Ra is happy.
Behold, he calls out to the
All satisfying Life is given to thee!
Eternity is thine . . .
Thou perishest not,
Thou passest not away,
for ever and ever.
With this last Divine Encounter on the Imperishable Star, the
"king’s lifetime is eternity, its limit is everlastingness."
The Confusion of Languages
According to Genesis (chapter 11) Mankind had "one language and one
kind of words" before Sumer was settled. But as a result of the
Tower of Babel incident, Yahweh, who had come down to see what was
going on, said to (unnamed) colleagues: "Behold, they are one
people and they all have one tongue . . . Let us descend and
confound there their tongue so that they may not understand each
other’s speech." It happened, by our calculations, circa 3450 B.C.
This tradition reflects Sumerian assertions that "once upon a time,"
in an idyllic past when "man had no rivals" and all the lands
"rested in security," "the people in unison to Enlil in one tongue
Those idyllic times are recalled in a Sumerian text known as
Enmerkarand the Lord of Aratta that deals with a power struggle and a
test of wills between Enmerkar, a ruler of Uruk (the biblical
Erech), and the king ofAratta (in the Indus Valley) circa 2850 B.C.
The dispute concerned the extent of the powers of Ishtar, Enlil’s
granddaughter, who could not make up her mind whether to reside in
faraway Aratta or stay in the then-unimportant Erech.
Viewing the expansion of Enlilite control unfavorably, Enki sought
to inflame the War of Words between the two rulers by confusing
their language. So "Enki, the Lord of Eridu, endowed with knowledge,
changed the speech in their mouths" to create contentions between
"prince and prince, king and king."
According to J. van Dijk ("La confusion des langues" in Orientalia
vol. 39), the last verse in this passage should be translated "the
language of Mankind, once upon a time one, for the second time was
confused" (italics by the author).
Whether the verse means that it was Enki who for the second time
confused the languages, or simply that it was he who was responsible
for the second confusion but not necessarily for the first one, is
not clear from the text.